I’m about 14k into the next chapter, and 6k for the chapter after that. If all goes well I should get the next chapter to the Editing Gang on May 4 towards the evening.
Today someone PM’d me and asked why the first two books only took three years for 1.2 million words when the third has taken four years for half that much.
Given that I’ve gone for months and months without an update, I think it’s fair to kind of go over whats been happening and why. This is a long rambling post, so you don’t have to read unless you’re actually interested.
The Early Years (OSABC, Mother’s Tears, the original STG files)
So, back when I started this entire mess, I really didn’t plan on writing three million words scattered across some fifty stories. The first couple of things were just me playing around.
At the time, I was very much trying to distract myself from my wife’s death. I was trying to throw myself into activities (writing, painting, guitar, hiking) to focus my mind, distract my emotions and let me function again after almost a year of sitting in my house and only leaving to go to work or buy food.
When I started writing I had no large plan. As I’ve said elsewhere, the whole ‘sheep and battle chicken’ thing came out of a set of nicknames, the idea of comraderie and friends for life that (at the time) I felt bitter about missing.
As such, a lot of people have commented on the disjointed, overly emotional and angsty tone of OSABC, and the depressive overtones. That’s to be expected.
My wife was dead. My brother was dead. My father was dead. My two closest friends had been blown to bits by an IED in Iraq. My cousin, the one I looked on as my heir, was diagnosed with epilepsy and couldn’t finish college. My relatives bickered over the property of dead people. My career was a wash and I had lost most of my savings, and the last bit of love I had left, my mother, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Go write some fucking sunshine shit when this is on your plate, and more. So I used OSABC to distract, and at times, I vented. I spewed out concepts and words and beliefs that I needed to get out before they poisoned me, even if at the time I was unaware I did it.
But more than that, OSABC chapters were often short. Some of them weren’t even two thousand words. Before I started writing I had outlined a great deal and it was easy to just fill those outlines. There was one period in which I dropped 150k words in ten days. (The DLP people can confirm.)
At some point, for some reason, people began reading, and word spread. It went from being some mangly thing with 200 reviews to having 1.5k reviews and being on the first page of FF.net results for Mass Effect fan fiction.
At this point I had just finished off OSABC and made friends with people like Bebus, Progman, Wordkrush, and jay8008, all of whom influenced how I wrote and what I wrote.
The Explosion (ATTWN, the Cerberus Files, the STG Files, and No Single Raindrop)
Due to the influence of people who could actually write, ATTWN had a much stronger emotional tone to it. Many of the critical pieces I took from conversations with Progman and Bebus, and others from Wordkrush. Things from Shepard burning her Penal Legion Blanket to the N7 Parade of Swords Passant to the honeymoon on Inte’sai — all came from the influence of others.
It was also around this time I began chafing even more at the limits of canon and more importantly, the blank spots. For such a vast universe that ME provides, we know very little. And so to distract myself further, I began to fill it.
I had to research math, cultures, physics, musical styles, biochemistry. I had to come up with histories spanning millennia, truly alien biologies, and alien mindsets that both fit canon to a degree and yet built on it in the Premiseverse way. And all this study distracted me further, because it was interesting.
If OSABC was an exploration in grandiose melodramatic storytelling, ATTWN was emotional. At times it was more draining than I expected, and other parts were difficult to write, and yet I got most of it done in a single year.
It was towards the tail end of this effort that a few of my more devoted readers had conversation chains with me, mostly via PM in FF.net. Most of them had the same complaint: I love the writing but you have a lot of typos and errors.
I attempted to make a focused effort to fix that, but work became more hectic and slowed that down.
The Current Period (TWCD, Sorrows, Memories)
When I wrote OSABC, I had outlines for everything and knew exactly what I wanted to write. When I wrote ATTWN it was just plugging things into existing frameworks, not a lot of originality was needed.
At the start of TWCD, however, I was running from whole cloth pure AU. The startup ‘tutorial’ sequence in the game never sat well with me, and in scrapping that (and tossing away the last rags of canon) I had to set out to write a story that incorporated all of the many setups and foreshadowings I had while preparing more for the later installments.
So I began to write, and at first I cranked things out fast, but the chapters felt a little.. flat. And around this time, one of the people I’d been talking to, Comma, decided it would be good to help out editing my work. The first efforts of this were done in shared Google Docs, and the chat function of Docs allowed me my first real time chats with my readers.
Their input cleaned up the work (A LOT) and also began shifting my focus. I incorporated suggestions and trimmed entire sections, sometimes tearing out entire outlines to put in a really good idea.
As time went on my job got more and more intrusive. Instead of working 9 to 5 and having from 6 to midnight to myself, I had to juggle managment, taking care of Mom, dealing with church events, and a much longer work schedule.
To help out further the Editing Gang was officially formed, and at some remove, a Discord was created…bringing us to today.
Look, LP, that’s all great but why the fuck did you go from putting out 150k in 10 days to one chapter every four or five months?
Four reasons, really.
- OSABC and ATTWN generally followed at least parts of canon and were outlined and partially drafted before I started putting anything on FF.net. TWCD, on the other hand, only has an outline of the ‘big events’ and is completely AU. As more material gets added, it means I have to make sure I’m not contradicting my own lore, inducing plot holes, or other such nonsense.
- OSABC and ATTWN were both written without a serious attempt at polish, editing, or redrafting. I just let my fingers go and then hit publish. TWCD has several drafts that I go through now: one initial rough draft, then a check for plot holes and inconsistencies, and then a draft that the Editing Gang sees and usually tears apart, sometimes so much I have to rewrite large portions of the chapter. The pre-drafts usually take a least a couple of weeks and it can take a week (or more) for the EG to all finalize their work.
- My personal life has gone from mostly stable to… somewhat unpleasant. I’ve had to take a demotion, my heir has turned out to be a disappointment, and my family has become intolerable. On top of that, I now have had multiple medical issues — my back can seize up and cause me pain that lays me out for days and now my wrist is causing me pain when I write. For about three months I simply couldn’t write more than a few short sentences at a time.
- Most importantly, writing TWCD has been a lot harder on me emotionally than the first two. Digging to find the emotional depth opened up some scars. It’s tiring, and the reason there’s so much new side material is that I enjoy writing that more than the main story sometimes.
I am glad you have all made this insane journey with me, and barring something terrible happening to my health, I plan to keep writing out my series. For the moment I’ve put my original fiction on hold (although I dabble at it from time to time) because the market is so bad right now.
I know the stories are at times… not the best. There are typos or missing words, or too much focus on the Rule of Cool. There’s a lot of angst and perhaps not enough light. I am trying to make it enjoyable and entertaining, for no other reason that I’ve had people tell me what I’ve written has gotten them through a shitty day, or inspired them to write, or helped them get past a dead relative.
If I can do that, then what started as just me trying to distract myself is a goal worth pursuing. Thanks for reading.